Science & Technology Corner

DoD STEM Program Launches Navy Researcher’s Career – and
Potential Game-changing Technology

When she was a teenager, Kristina Dronenburg’s family played a unique game around the dinner table with her family.

Kristina Dorenenburg the Scientist of the Quarter Award to Dr. Justin McLay

Kristina Dronenburg, 23, Physicist, Naval Air Station, Patuxent River

“The game was called ‘Wouldn’t It Be Cool If,’” she says.  “The rule was there was no bad idea and nothing was shot down.  One day, I said, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if you could collect sound from a microphone and store it in a battery?’”

It was that moment in time that set Dronenburg on an unforgettable course, from high school valedictorian, to Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation (SMART) scholar, to a Navy scientist who may just change the world.

Dronenburg recently tested her idea to transfer sound into energy during Naval Air Station, Patuxent River’s Innovation Challenge and currently has a patent pending.  Her journey to DoD, and the realization of a lifelong dream, would not have been possible without the SMART program.  SMART is a scholarship-for-service program that funds all education expenses for DoD’s next generation of scientists and engineers.  SMART scholars immediately enter the DoD workforce upon graduation.  For Dronenburg, SMART created opportunities she never imagined.

“SMART gave me the path to make my dreams a reality,” she says. “SMART gave me the ability not to worry about school loans.  All I had to do was learn.  It gave me a chance to start my career at a very young age and provided me a direct path into the Navy.  It brought me from not knowing where I was going, to giving me a clear path to not only help the military, but to also develop technology for the Navy.
“SMART launched my career, and it was truly a blessing,” she said.

For more information on the SMART program, please visit


Dept of Defense US Air Force OASAALT RDECOM ONR NRL US Air Force Joint Chiefs of Staff Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Force Health Protection & Readiness Defense Threat Reduction Agency Missile Defense Agency Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization Chemical & Biological Defense Program